Coming into 2012, everyone expected Jacob Pedersen to continue his growth from 2011. A 30-catch, 356-yard, 8-touchdown season was pretty impressive for someone who was the third option on a regular basis. As you can probably tell from the wide receiver preview, he didn't grow.
Now granted, this wasn't a situation as simple as he just didn't improve. The offensive line had struggles during the season, and they weren't so confident in the protection game that they could just send out James White and Montee Ball for passes. Ball and White combined for 39 grabs and 6 touchdowns in 2011. Ball, White and Melvin Gordon combined for 20 catches and 2 touchdowns.
But Pedersen did have flashes of greatness. In three conference games (Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State), he was able to generate 13 catches, 208 yards and 3 touchdowns. That was nice, but considering he ended the year with 27 grabs, 355 yards, and 4 touchdowns? Just goes to show you just how inconsistent he was over the season.
Spring Depth Chart
1) Jacob Pedersen -- 6-foot-4, 241 pounds, RS Senior
2) Brian Wozniak -- 6-foot-4, 261 pounds, RS Senior
3) Sam Arneson -- 6-foot-4, 255 pounds, Junior
4) Austin Traylor -- 6-foot-3, 243 pounds, RS Sophomore
Incoming Freshmen: T.J. Watt (B5Q Profile)
Remember the wide receiver preview where I talked about the institution of the "13" package? If there weren't some quality performances among the tight ends, there wouldn't be talk of this unorthodox package. I mean, Pedersen didn't build on 2011, but he has the talent where if he puts it all together, he's going to be in the NFL in 2014.
Wozniak is still a good blocker, and he seems to be developing into something useful in the passing game. We're likely going to see him as the tight end that stays in to block in most downs when he comes in, but if he continues to grow as a receiver, it would prove very helpful.
Arneson didn't put much on the stat sheet, but when he did, he was truly efficient -- 4 catches, 2 touchdowns. In a way, he was the capper for Curt Phillips when he was making with the victories. If Phillips ends up winning the starting job, Arneson could get a good 30 to 35 grabs on the season. It would definitely answer a lot of the questions if he breaks out and does something.
All in all, if we're talking about bringing the best 11 players onto the field, a "13" package may be an unorthodox decision. But at present? It may be the best 11 on the field. There's experience, there's blockers and there's receiving upside.
Let's be honest. While there are positions where the Badgers have worries, tight end isn't one of them. There's going to be a high floor to what the Badgers are going to get from this position.
But whereas the position is in reasonably good shape, there is still the chance that Pedersen is only good for somewhere between 25 to 35 catches and Sam Arneson doesn't emerge into the threat that we all think he could be. There's a lot that can go wrong. We're a long way from September.
But between the three tight ends? Something would have to go wrong for the Badgers not to be in good shape at this position.